By Kelly Peterson, Director of Client Services
There are two people in publishing that make me a little starstruck. One of them, Dominique Raccah, doesn’t seem to mind that I adore and come close to stalking her for her brilliance. Instead of calling her security squad, she did a panel with me: Supercharge Your Career. (For those of you not lucky enough to know Dominique, she is a world-renowned digital innovator and the CEO of Sourcebooks, which is the largest woman-owned independent publishing house in North America. Start following her on Twitter now. No, seriously — right now.)
Of course, we had so many tips and tricks of the trade to share — not to mention amazing audience participation at the panel itself — that we didn’t get through everything we wanted to cover. Luckily, I am able to share the rest of our advice here. Don’t wait to Supercharge Your Career — start now!
Understand the marketplace
Don’t conflate the shifts in the industry.
One of the reasons I’ve admired Dominique Raccah for years is her ability to combine head and heart. She was the creator of the #ThankUBorders hashtag, and her lovely tribute meant a ton to everyone as the company was closing. However, she also used her brilliant mind to really understand how the market was changing in a less sweeping way than most: she saw that there were two major shifts happening in books: a shift in format, and a shift to online. Because they were happening at the same time, most people conflate the two, but she had the insight to realize that parallel growth didn’t make it the same. We spent a little time debating whether we’d see the impact of streaming in books the same way as music. Dominique’s point was that books have always had the free component in libraries, and she thought that would make subscription services unsuccessful. I think that libraries and subscription services, as they streamline and prioritize and curate, will eventually have the same impact on books that Spotify did for music. We’ll see who’s right – or at least, our children will!
Critical decisions for each book
Even great books get overlooked sometimes!
First of all, not everyone is going to have the same experiences with their books. Sometimes it seems like magic, but that “magic” is really knowledge, history, practice, and experimentation. Make sure you ask yourself the right questions: Who will be reading your books? How do you locate those readers? Who will help you get there? What do you need to do along the way? (For in depth discussion of the first two questions, we talked about that in our Author Branding Success panel with Naleighna Kai, Christina Bauer, and Rebecca Royce, so check that out, too!) Dominique described a Sourcebooks title that had been a modest seller, but they believed was terrific. They redid the metadata, redid the cover, and relaunched for huge success. That is the kind of impact that you can have with a publisher. We are focusing on the same sort of success with our New Title Marketing package; we want to set our clients up for success, and offer them some of the same tools that publishers commonly use.
Control vs. Support
The Work Revenue Share Paradigm
It’s important to decide how much you want to control and how much support you want to receive. Should you go with a traditional publisher or DIY? Consider how much time or money you want to invest. The more you do, the bigger percentage you keep. But if you aren’t good at it, it may cost you sales in the end. What is your experience level in the following areas:
- Editorial work
- Formatting and design
- Cover layout
- Printing and distribution
- Retailer merchandising
- Marketing and advertising
- Social media & community building
You may realize you need something in between traditional publishing and self-publishing. This is where partnering with a distributor may come in handy. As a service provider, we distribute to major retailers, report file errors and distribution status, offer consultation and file creation services, manage retailer marketing, and provide live status information. If all you want to do is write, work with a publisher. They are experts in all those topics and more.
Build an audience through technology
How do you reach your brand’s customers now, and what technology shifts are worth time and investment?
Again, this was a big focus in the Author Branding panel. (Which is good, because we didn’t get to it at Supercharge Your Career!) Connect to and engage with your readers via social media, newsletters, online forum participation, and bargains and giveaways. New direct-to-consumer storefronts (like Sourcebooks has) gives you new ways to monetize your content and capture your readers for future promos and mailings. Social sampling, like the Text Cafe widget, reach potential customers faster by leveraging social media and building buzz! What do you have to drive people forward? Look at your analytics using services like INstore, which provides visibility to your full catalog, live status buttons, and even your rankings, ratings, and reviews on retailer stores.
Most importantly, you need to find customers where they are, and that means doing all of this and back of book links, so that they can find their next book when they are ready.
Set and achieve sales goals
What are best practices for publishers that make a difference in a book’s sales long term?
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to treat your books as a business. Create a business plan and timeline — and stick to it! This gets you started on the right foot. Innovate and reinvent if you aren’t meeting your goals.
Enlarge your selling window by setting your titles up for pre-order, which can be set up a year in advance. This gives you time and leverage for publicity. Create buzz before launch by garnering reviews and offering cover reveals. Drive additional sales during pre-order by adding back matter links in your other titles. A successful pre-order launch ensures your pub date sales are phenomenal.
Never run a discount without a purpose. Dropping your price without any backing just sells the same number of copies at a lower price. You need to align your retailer support; use your author’s social media; and advertise. First in series promotions make sense, but only if you have other books available for sale and pre-order.
Make sure you are freshening your blog, Goodreads, and Amazon author profile. Put your pre-order links up for all retailers or use a widget. Don’t forget to share all retailer links in your social media and on your website, not just Amazon: the other retailers are looking, and you don’t want to be a bad partner to anyone who is trying to sell your books.
In all the important things, Dominique and I agree: it’s important to choose the right partners, build your author brand (with help as needed), and tell great stories to lots of readers.
Take a look at our slideshare for more infomation!
My next post is going to be the more social side of RT: definitely check that one out as you travel to BEA!